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Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree This Year

A good quality, healthy tree will last for weeks with proper care and maintenance.
A good quality, healthy tree will last for weeks with proper care and maintenance.

Tips from local certified arborist at Davey Tree for selecting the right tree


For many, the holiday season officially begins with the yearly hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. With a freshly cut Christmas tree, the tradition of the quest makes memories that last a lifetime.

"There's nothing quite like a live tree,” says Jason Evans District Manager at The Davey Tree Expert Company in San Francisco. “It's the scent and spirit of the holiday.”

As a tree expert, he has one secret tip for finding the perfect tree this year: "Pick one that speaks to you," Evans says. “A good quality, healthy tree will last for weeks with proper care and maintenance.”

When perusing the lot, Evans suggests testing the branches and needles of the trees for freshness.  “Run your fingers along the needles, grab the branches and bounce the tree a little,” he explains. “If the tree is fresh, very few needles should fall off.  If many do, it's a sure sign that the tree was cut long-ago and has not been watered enough.”

Each variety of Christmas tree has its own personality. Below Evans outlines the pros and cons of some of the most popular species.

  • Douglas Fir
While not a true fir, the Douglas fir is one of the most popular Christmas trees. The dark green or blue-green colored needles are soft to the touch and radiate out in all directions from the branch, creating a very full-looking tree. The Douglas fir also has a sweet, not overwhelming scent.

  • Colorado Blue Spruce
Spruces have a beautiful shape and color, but the Colorado blue spruce is an incredibly symmetrical and stately tree. The blue spruce is also one of the best for needle retention.

  • Scotch and Eastern White Pine
All varieties of pine have excellent needle retention and a full look. Though, their flexible branches struggle to hold heavy ornaments. The main difference between the scotch and white pine is their fragrance. Scotch trees have a long-lasting aroma while the Eastern white trees have almost no fragrance, making it a favorite for those with fragrance sensitivities.

  • Firs, including Balsam, Fraser and Canaan
These trees are more expensive than pines because they grow slower, however the extra expense is worth it. Firs have stiff branches that hold heavy decorations, their needles won't shed even if it misses a watering or two, and the scent will make the whole house smell like Christmas. Balsam firs are perfect for tree toppers while Fraser firs are more compact.

  • Living Christmas Trees
Living Christmas trees come with a root ball, to allow for planting after the holiday season. Choosing the right, native conifer tree now will ensure it thrives when planted. Keep in mind, these trees must be kept in a garage or shed until the ground has thawed enough for planting.


Once the perfect Christmas tree has made its way home, Evans has one suggestion for keeping it fresh.  “Water,” he says, “is the essential ingredient for maintaining Christmas tree freshness.”

Water prevents needles from drying and dropping off and helps maintain fragrance. Trees may drink up to several quarts a day, so check the water level daily.

Keep the Green Growing by Tree-Cycling

When the holidays are over, make sure to recycle the tree. Each year, 93% of Christmas trees are recycled and turned into mulch for landscapes, gardens or chipped for use in playgrounds and hiking trails. 

Nationally, there are 4,000 available recycling programs.  Most municipalities will collect trees during their regular pickup schedules in the two weeks following Christmas. Check with your municipality or the local recycling center about tree-cycling.  Before recycling the Christmas tree, remove all non-organic décor, like lights and ornaments.

Hopefully, these tips from the experts on how to choose and care for a Christmas tree help.  Questions?  Call a local certified tree care specialist at Davey Tree.


The Davey Tree Expert Companywith U.S. and Canadian operations in more than 45 states and five provinces, provides a variety of tree care, grounds maintenance and consulting services for the residential, commercial, utility and government markets. Founded in 1880, Davey is employee-owned and has more than 7,000 employees who provide Proven Solutions for a Growing World. For more information, visit www.davey.com.

Anabella Maria Fontini Della Rossa La Bellissima December 06, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Better than supporting such a silly industry such as the Christmas tree industry, plant a real tree. Too many resources go into growing a tree - water, fertilizer, labor, land, fuel, etc. to just throw it all in the trash after Christmas, year after year. Yes, it's an industry that contributes money to the economy but resources such as water and fuel are not exactly endless. Then to add insult to injury, we slather the tree with trinkets that come mainly from China. Start a new tradition in your family that contributes to a better world, instead of something where the end result is a pile of chipped up branches.
Lynn Starrs December 07, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Thinning overcrowded young forests to keep the trees healthy results in Christmas trees! The UC Berkeley Forestry Club will be selling wild-caught trees the week of Dec 9 on the northwest corner of campus. Trees are donated by forest landowners.
Rising together December 07, 2013 at 06:00 PM
I don’t know anyone who waters fir/pine trees. If you go to the ‘cut your own’ lots, you will not find water systems. Trees are renewable. If you cut it as directed, the root remains and a new tree sprouts from the same root. Also, it is a ‘green’ industry. While I support the idea of buying a live tree, they are not always practical, small and where do you plant them? This is a good industry, but I would vote for cutting your own. There are far too many trees that get cut and not sold which is a huge waste.
Anabella Maria Fontini Della Rossa La Bellissima December 09, 2013 at 11:29 AM
I'm not suggesting to buy a live Christmas tree. Buy a live apple tree, dogwood tree, japanese maple, crape myrtle, bradford pear, redwood, ginkgo, redbud, koelreuteria, stewartia, nyssa, podocarpus, magnolia, etc. Plant a tree.

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